According to The American Library Association’s digital-literacy task force offers this definition: “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” But how do you know if you are digitally literate and how do you know how close you are to becoming digitally fluent? How can we apply this definition and know when we have become digitally fluent? One way that I have seen, and when I see this happen I say to myself, “Wow, now this person is digitally literate.” There are two reasons why I have told myself this, and a reason that gives me a hint that I know I will soon tell myself say this to myself.
The reason that I will soon say to myself, “Wow, this person is digitally literate” is when we are chatting synchronously and they are sharing screens, documents, and links all while using the chat and other tools in the platform and not once asked, “How do you…?” Not only does that the person knows how to do everything they want to do to achieve a goal in that chosen platform, but they also intuitively know where to look and figure it out quickly and effortlessly for themselves. They are confident that they can figure it out for themselves rather than prematurely asking for help. When I see closed captioning pop up without having to ask how to make it available then I know the person with whom I am chatting with is on their way to becoming digitally fluent, or even there already.
The first reason why I told myself, “Wow, this person is digitally literate” occurred after facilitating a workshop. Participants were asked to create an interactive asynchronous lesson for a hybrid course. Participants were given the task and without asking any how-to questions they developed wonderful videos that had chapters, closed captioning, attached handouts, embedded quizzing, links, and some other interactive elements. The objective was to make a video, so all the other added elements demonstrated a higher level of digital fluency because they didn’t get bogged down the process. Also, participants could visualize what they wanted to offer their students and knew of some potential tools that were needed to create it. Visualizing the end activity and being able to replace it demonstrates a very high level of digital literacy, which approaches fluency and my final point.
When someone has a learning activity or object in mind that they want to produce, be it an assignment, activity, material, or assessment, they can connect it with tools that will allow them to accomplish the goals. These activities or objects can be in a face-to-face, online, or hybrid class. It also means they know where to go to find potential tools that will allow them to accomplish these goals. Going to peers and saying “I am going to do this activity so I will use this tool, and this is how I am going to do it. What do you think?” If another tool is suggested then you can quickly assess that tool and compare it with the feasibility of the original tool you were considering. Not only does this demonstrate good digital literacy but it also spreads ideas on ways to accomplish learning goals. Having a learning goal in mind and clearly connecting it with the digital tools and methods to achieve that goal means that any definition of digital literacy has been reached. And the quicker that connection is made the closer one is to becoming digitally fluent.
Of course having little hesitation grabbing a good digital tool to complete a learning goal may not have you feel that you are digitally fluent. Extending monitors, for example, may present a challenge, but being digitally literate means that you feel confident enough to figure it out. Being digitally fluent gives us the confidence to reach our goals in any reasonable technical environment, not just in the classroom.